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Why Major in Sociology?

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Overview

About 85% of Sociology Majors who graduated in 2015 and 2016 said that they would recommend the major to an incoming freshman.

More than anything else, graduating seniors tell us that they appreciate the major’s flexibility and the opportunity to explore topics that really matter to them. And, about 75% of recent graduates said that the major is very relevant for understanding and addressing current social issues.

Sociology majors also develop a broad knowledge of society, critical thinking skills, and the ability to evaluate and write about quantitative and qualitative evidence. Graduate programs and employers highly value these skills.

Read on for more information about how the major allows you to study the topics that interest you and prepares you for a wide range of graduate programs and careers.

Pursue Your Interests

Perhaps more than any other major, Sociology embodies Cornell’s tradition of “… any person … any study.” Sociology allows you to follow your own interests in the social world, wherever they may lead.

As a recent graduate told us:

“I valued being able to learn about the kinds of things that people don’t often take the time to think about, like power dynamics, domestic violence, drug abuse, and health disparities.”

Sociology courses at Cornell provide a strong foundation in sociological theories, research, and methodological tools, including quantitative and qualitative analyses of surveys, experiments, networks, temporal sequences, or historical or archival data. The conceptual tools of sociology are used to study social behavior and social change at many different levels of analysis, including individual actions or speech, people, schools, firms and organizations, social networks, neighborhood or spatial communities, and nation states.

What unites sociologists is our commitment to developing a rigorous, systematic, and evidence-based understanding of how our social context affects our behavior and, how our collective behavior creates social institutions and patterns within society.

The sociological perspective and research methods give our majors a unique ability to analyze the social world. A recent graduate told us:

 “What I value most is the frame of thinking that I learned through the sociology major. I appreciate the holistic approach to social issues that I learned, and the scientific, analytical methods that I’ve learned to use to examine issues of social justice.”

With these skills, Sociology majors are well-prepared for a wide range of graduate programs and careers. Read on for more information.

Get into Graduate School

In 2015 and 2016, about 50% of our graduating senior sociology majors had definite plans to go to graduate school. Another 25% said that they were likely to go to graduate school within the next few years.

Sociology majors pursue a wide range of graduate degrees.

About a third of our majors who go to graduate school enroll in professional degree programs, such as business school, law school, and medical school.

Sociology provides an excellent foundation for applying to law school and business school because of the critical thinking and analytic skills that you develop as a major. In fact, many of the top law schools and business schools have been adding sociologists to their faculty, because they recognize the value of sociological perspectives and methods.

And, as you might know, the MCAT now includes a section on the sociology of health. We’ve even had majors who have gone on to top dental schools.

About 50% of Cornell sociology majors who go to graduate school pursue masters or doctoral degrees. This includes graduate degrees in sociology, of course, but also public policy and public affairs, political science, psychology, education, public health, social work, natural resources, and urban planning.

Our majors are admitted into some of the most competitive masters and doctoral programs. There are a few reasons why our majors stand out.

First, admissions to graduate programs often require students to demonstrate their potential for graduate-level research, and/or to craft a coherent statement about why they want to pursue a post-baccalaureate degree. Our majors tell us that their sociology courses prepared them for this by teaching them how to frame a social science research question and think critically about social facts and evidence — precisely the skills that admissions committees are seeking.

Second, majoring in sociology also affords students many opportunities to develop strong writing samples that enhance their applications to graduate programs. Several of our courses devote sustained attention throughout the semester to the craft of evaluating social scientific evidence, writing effectively about social science research, and producing new social science research. Students who complete an honors thesis in Sociology will also be especially well prepared for graduate admissions and studies.

Get a Rewarding Job

Many of our majors don’t want to go to graduate school, or they want to work for a while first. The skills that you learn as a Sociology major – including “critical thinking,” data analysis, and the ability to evaluate and write about quantitative and qualitative evidence – are in high demand in the labor market.

Among our 2015 and 2016 graduating seniors who planned to work after graduation, 88% said that their knowledge of sociological theories/ideas/topics helped them to get their jobs, and nearly 70% said that their research skills and knowledge of sociological methods (e.g., statistics, network analysis) helped them to get their jobs.

Other students said that the writing skills they developed in Sociology courses were particularly helpful with getting jobs and internships. A recent graduate said:

“Being a sociology major, I have grown exponentially as a writer, researcher, and thinker. I want to go into a public relations career where all I will be doing is writing, and the interview processes for it have required writing tests, which has been my greatest strength. I… attribute that to the Sociology major and the incredible professors I have had.”

The Career Services unit of the College of Arts and Sciences is the primary source for advice on getting a job. They also compile statistics every year on careers of recent Cornell graduates.

For more information about careers with a sociology major, you could consult the results from an American Sociological Association (ASA) survey of about 1,800 Sociology majors who graduated in 2005, with a follow-up in 2007. Findings from the survey are reported here. Keep in mind that the students in the ASA data are from thousands of colleges and universities; Cornell students tend to fare much better in the labor market than the typical US sociology student.

The ASA offers other resources for undergraduate majors, including advice on searching for jobs with an undergraduate degree in Sociology and a guide to careers with an undergraduate degree in Sociology. Copies of the guide are available in the Sociology Department.